The United Nations is urging foreign investors to pay attention to Rwanda, which it calls a stable country primed for business growth. The U.N. Conference on Trade and Development and the International Chamber of Commerce is issuing an Investment Guide to Rwanda, which presents a road map of opportunities for potential lucrative investments.
The Investment Guide calls Rwanda one of the most open environments for investment in Africa. It says there has been significant progress since the genocide in 1994. It says Rwanda has a stable government, a peaceful territory, low levels of crime and corruption.
But, Director of UNCTAD's Investment Division, Khalil Hamdani, says this message is not getting across.
"Investors are still shy as suggested by the statistics of foreign direct investment coming into Rwanda," he said. "It is now a decade since the tragedy and still foreign direct investment on an annual basis amounts to only one dollar per person, per year."
This is a very low figure. An UNCTAD study shows the world's 50 Least Developed Countries last year attracted $11 billion in foreign direct investment. Rwanda's share of that came to about $100 million.
Rwanda's Minister of Industry and Investment Promotion, Vincent Karega, agrees his country faces an uphill battle in attracting foreign investors. He says Rwanda has problems with administration, with infrastructure, with the absence of skilled labor and outdated laws.
"But, what is good with Rwanda is that we are recognized to be a country that can easily reform because we have been proving that in the past. So, there is hope that even the current obstacles today may not be obstacles in the years to come," he said.
The guide says people willing to take a chance on Rwanda will find many opportunities for making money. For example, it notes the potential for agricultural production in coffee, tea, horticulture, floriculture and herbal products has barely been tapped.
Karega says Rwanda is emerging as a producer of specialty coffee for the high-end market and already is selling to the Starbucks coffee chain in the United States. In addition, he says, Rwanda has minerals, such as methane gas, which can be exploited and tourism is a prime area for development.
"As you know, we have the mountain gorillas, that is a very rare species in this world. It is the only place in the world where you can still find these gorillas…and other features such as good lakes, a forest with many species of animals makes Rwanda a destination for high end tourism, for eco-tourism. And, we are investing in that sector," Karega said.
Rwanda is among the poorest of the Least Developed Countries. About 55 percent of the population live below the poverty line. The country is still in tatters from the genocide that killed 800,000 people.
In June, World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz said that the economic progress now taking place across Africa is not uniform. "You can still find many pockets of misery," he said, adding that there is not enough attention being paid to African success stories like Rwanda.